Homemade Cavatelli

Cavatelli, a small, toothsome, tightly wound shell-shaped pasta, is as satisfying to make as it is to eat. Best of all, it requires no special equipment!

Fresh Homemade Cavatelli on Baking Sheet Dusted With Semolina Flour

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant, I find myself jumping for joy when I see cavatelli on the menu. Cavatelli is a lovely homemade pasta shape with a firm bite and a hollowed-out center perfect for nestling bits of meat or vegetables. 

Cavatelli was invented in Molise, a region of Southern Italy. It's made from semolina flour, a type of durum wheat, and water. The dough is kneaded for several minutes until soft and smooth. Then, after a long rest, it is rolled out into long ropes, and each rope is cut into pieces. Finally, each piece is hand-rolled into its characteristic shape. 

Fresh Homemade Cavatelli on the Counter Dusted With Semolina Flour

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

How to Shape Cavatelli

There are many different ways to shape cavatelli, but after a lot of trial and error, I'm going to share my favorite method. The goal here is to drag and roll each chunk of dough, roughly 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch, until it curls over itself, forming a hot dog bun-like shape. It's important to drag each chunk firmly to create a thin inner cavity. Too thick, and it'll taste doughy instead of having a slight chew. 

Traditionally, cavatelli is hand-rolled with one's fingers. But I prefer using the serrated edge of a butter knife to drag the dough so your fingers don't get too tired! I also find that the serrated edge helps "dig in" to the dough to create a thin, textured center. 

You can also use this method and roll the dough over a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork if you prefer a ridged texture.

How to Cook Cavatelli 

To cook store-bought cavatelli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente according to package instructions, then drain and serve with your choice of sauce.

Homemade cavatelli needs significantly less cooking time than dried cavatelli. It will take around 5 to 6 minutes to cook in salted boiling water; they’re done when they float to the surface and taste al dente but not doughy.

Cooked Cavatelli in a Strainer Rested on a Kitchen Towel

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

Tips and Tricks for Making Cavatelli

  • For this pasta shape, only semolina flour or semola flour should be used; otherwise, the texture will suffer. 
  • Keep a water mister with you while kneading and rolling the dough. Semolina dough tends to dry out easily, especially in drier environments, so I either mist the dough or wet my hands slightly.
  • To prevent doughy pasta, you need to knead it for a good 10 to 15 minutes until it’s soft and smooth. 
  • Make sure your cavatelli is rolled thin. When thin enough, the inside of the cavatelli should have a raised texture from being dragged across the knife. 
  • To prevent dense pasta, I like to separate the two ends of the "bun" to ensure there's an opening in the center for sauce to nestle into. 

How to Serve Cavatelli

Cavatelli is often traditionally served with a ragu or a simple broccoli sauce. I like to choose sauces with a bit of texture so that the sauce can cling to and nestle inside the pasta. 

Looking for some sauce inspiration? Swap the pasta called for in these recipes for cavatelli:

Bowl of Homemade Cavatelli, Broccoli, and Pasta Sauce With a Fork, All on a Plate

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

Homemade Cavatelli

Prep Time 80 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Rest Time 60 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 25 mins
Servings 4 to 5 servings


  • 2 2/3 cups (453g) finely ground semolina or semola flour, plus more as needed and more for dusting

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (9g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, or 1 1/4 teaspoons Morton's kosher salt

  • 1 cup (237ml) warm water


  1. Mix the dough:

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Form a well in the center of the flour, then pour in the water. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in a circular motion with your hands or a wooden spoon.

    Ceramic Mixer Bowl Filled With Semolina and Water for Homemade Cavatelli Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  2. Knead the dough:

    Once the texture of the ingredients has transformed into a thick paste, begin kneading the dough in the bowl for 3 to 4 minutes or until it comes together into a shaggy, rough ball. 

    Simple Tip!

    If the dough feels quite dry and is struggling to come together into a cohesive mass, add a teaspoon of water at a time to bring it together.

    Transfer to a large wooden cutting board or a work surface, and knead the dough for 5 to 7 minutes or until it feels smooth, no dry bits remain, and it no longer feels sticky. For the last couple of minutes, I like to switch from kneading to rolling the dough back and forth to smooth out rough areas.

    Simple Tip!

    If the dough begins to dry out slightly as you knead it (this is normal!), spray it lightly with a mister or wet your hands. If the dough feels slightly sticky, I recommend kneading it for 1 to 2 minutes to see if that fixes the hydration. If not, dust the work surface with 1 teaspoon of flour at a time and knead that into the dough.

    Homemade Cavatelli Dough in a Ceramic Mixer Bowl

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

    Hand Rolling Cavatelli Dough on a Counter

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

    Ball of Homemade Cavatelli Dough on the Counter

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  3. Rest the dough:

    Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour. This critical resting time allows the dough to hydrate properly and relax the gluten.

    After the rest period, examine the dough. If it feels sticky, knead in 1 teaspoon of semolina until it is no longer sticky.

    Cavatelli Dough After Resting on the Counter

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  4. Form the dough:

    Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust generously with semolina flour. 

    Quarter the dough and take out one quarter to work with at a time. Cover the remaining sections in plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.

    On an unfloured wooden cutting board, use your hands to roll the dough into a thin log with a 1/2-inch diameter. Slice the log into 1/2-inch pieces.

    Doughball Cut Into Quarters

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

    Cavatelli Dough Rolled Into a Thin Log

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

    Dough Cut Into Small 1/2 Inch Pieces

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  5. Form into cavatelli:

    Drag the serrated side of a butter knife at a 45-degree angle across the length of each piece of dough until it begins to curl over itself, forming a hot dog bun shape. Make sure the knife digs into the dough to create a thin, textured surface on the inside; if the dough is too thick, it will taste doughy instead of al dente.

    Repeat with each piece of dough and transfer to the baking sheet (make sure they're not touching each other). Cover with a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.

    Simple Tip!

    If desired, you can roll the cavatelli over a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork to create a ridged texture.

    Repeat with the remaining dough, rolling each section into a log, cutting each log into pieces, and forming the cavatelli.

    Serrated Butter Knife Rolling Cavatelli on the Counter

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

    Cavatelli Formed: Serrated Knife Rolling Piece of Dough on the Counter, and on the Counter Next to Cavatelli, More Dough Pieces

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

    Cavatelli Formed: Serrated Butter Knife Rolling Dough Pieces Over a Gnocchi Board

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  6. Cook:

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cavatelli and boil until they float to the surface, 5 to 6 minutes. Cook for an additional 1 minute until they taste al dente. 

    Fresh cavatelli is best stored uncooked and frozen. Generously dust the pasta with semolina flour, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet dusted with flour. Arrange in an even layer on the baking sheet (make sure they're not touching each other) and freeze for 1 hour. Transfer to an airtight container or bag and freeze for up to 1 month. Cook straight from frozen.

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    Fresh Homemade Cavatelli on the Counter Dusted With Semolina Flour

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
326 Calories
1g Fat
66g Carbs
11g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 5
Amount per serving
Calories 326
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 700mg 30%
Total Carbohydrate 66g 24%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 11g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 17mg 1%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 169mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.